Everything went wrong except the eclipse itself.

My wife and I planned to go watch the total solar eclipse on 08/21/2017. At least we got to see it.

If you can't wait, scroll down for the eclipse photos.

Part One: THE PLAN

  1. The Equipment - what will I take?

    Equipment Setup I took the following equipment:

    The telescope is set up to project an image of the sun onto the display board. The image of the entire sun is about 5 inches in diameter (about the size of a CD) when adjusted for best visibility.

    The box to the right of the easel tripod is the telescope storage box.

    Note that binoculars can be used the same way, but the projected image is smaller.

    The camera is used to photograph the image of the sun on the display board, and to directly photograph the eclipse itself during totality.

    We did not get or use eclipse glasses. We did not look at the sun itself except during totality.

  2. The Weather - where will it be clear?

    I chose 5 general locations within driving range

    Initially my pick was Carbondale IL because I could combine the trip with visiting cemeteries containing the graves of my relatives.

    I monitored the weather (especially cloud cover) the 3 days before the eclipse.

    The day before the eclipse, NOAA predicted clearer weather over Hendersonville than over any other place within range. Rain was predicted in Illinois.

  3. The Planned Route

    I chose the best route to Hendersonville. All but a few miles were on freeways.

    I planned to set up in the yard of some friends, and to also visit my brother after the eclipse.

    I had planned to leave the totality zone and find lodging somewhere in Indiana or Illinois, rather than the overbooked places near the totality zone. This was also to facilitate visiting the graves the next day.


  1. Event #1 - My brother could not meet me.

    He called and told me he already had plans he could not change, involving many other people.

  2. Event #2 - Car Trouble

    As I approached Koleen IN on I-69, there was a strong smell of skunk. I punched the Interior air button to shut out the skunk smell. But in doing so, I accidently pushed the A/C button, turning it off. I immediately turned it on again.

    As I approached Scotland IN a few minutes later, I noticed the alternator was not charging. I took the US 231 exit to find out what was wrong. I turned off the A/C and the alternator started charging again. At the time I thought the A/C had seized. We decided to get back on I-69 and see if the trouble returned by the next interchange.

    I pushed the A/C button after 5 minutes. The A/C came on and everything continued to work. I then realized that I had hydrostatically locked the A/C compressor when I mistakenly turned it off and then immediately turned it back on. This caused the serpentine belt to slip.

    We had no further car trouble the rest of the trip.

  3. Event #3 - Small Traffic Jam east of Evansville IN

    Construction reduced I-69 to one lane in each direction. It caused a delay of about 15 minutes.

  4. Event #4 - Huge Traffic Jam in Evansville IN and Henderson KY

    Traffic was creeping bumper-to-bumper from the I-69 Green River Road interchange in Evansville to the Marywood Drive traffic signal in Henderson. This caused us a total delay of about an hour and a half.

    The main cause of this backup was construction on the Ohio River bridge that closed one lane in each direction and reduced lane widths. But nothing had been done to the traffic signals south of the bridge to pass the increased traffic heading to the eclipse.

    Change of Plan

    Because we were now an hour and a half behind schedule, we had to change our plans. There was no way we could make Hendersonville TN before totality. We decided to use Hopkinsville KY as an alternate destination. Our planned route passed through Hopkinsville, so this would be just a shorter trip. While I drove, my wife called our friends to tell them we could not make it to Tennessee.

  5. Event #5 - Small Traffic Jam in Morton's Gap KY

    Construction reduced I-69 to one lane in each direction. It caused a delay of about 10 minutes.

    No Change of Plan

    There was still time to reach Hopkinsville well before totality.

  6. Where we set up Event #6: Finding an Eclipse Viewing Spot

    We approached Hopkinsville and found the following:


  1. Before Totality

    We made the following observations before totality:

    Eclipse 1 Eclipse 2 Eclipse 3
  2. During Totality:

    We made the following observations during totality:

    Eclipse 4 Eclipse 5 Eclipse 6


    In the diagram at right, the observer is the little man at bottom right.

    Rayleigh scattering of mostly blue light causes all of the following effects:

    • THE BLUE SKY: Blue light scattered from light going elsewhere is redirected toward the observer (Shown by the blue arrows coming from the vertical ray in the white area).
    • THE ORANGE SUNSET: Light heading toward the observer has the blue light scattered out of it (Shown by the orange arrow at the end of the vertical ray in the white area).
    • In the totality effects, the light is scattered twice.
    • THE DARK BLUE TOTALITY SKY: Blue light scattered from sunlight is scattered into the shadow area. It is then scattered again down to the observer
      (Shown by the upper horizontal ray and the dark blue arrows).
    • THE DEEP RED TOTALITY HORIZON: Light scattered in the thicker atmosphere near the ground has most wavelengths scattered (olive arrows) into the shadow area. Then, all wavelengths but red are scattered away from light heading toward the observer.
      (Shown by the lower horizontal ray and the red arrows).

    White = Sunlight         Gray = totality shadow.

    Red sky
  3. After Totality:

    Eclipse 7 We made the following observations after totality:


  1. Event #1 - Traffic Blocked in Some Areas of Hopkinsville:

    Traffic was backed up to the left of where we were leaving the viewing area. We decided to turn right onto north US 41 and enter the Pennyrile Parkway 20 miles north. But police had blocked off all entry to US 41 north. Later I found out it was because of the Little Green Men Days Festival in Kelly KY, 8 miles north of Hopkinsville. This celebrates the little men sighting on August 21-22 1955 in Kelly exactly 62 years ago.

    We were sent southwest and I turned right onto US 41A. There we found a gas station and filled up. There were no lines at the pumps. We then headed back for the Pennyrile Parkway, this time at exit 7. Traffic was blocked solid to the north, but I could see cars slowing and collecting into the blockage just south of the interchange, so I expected it to end shortly.

    Because I had to drive somewhere at that time (to not block traffic), I turned south on the Pennyrile parkway. It was free-flowing in both directions all the way to I-24, and I-24 was free-flowing in both directions (probably because I-24 runs parallel to the totality zone, not across it).

    I went east on I-24, took the next exit onto US 41A north, and headed back to Hopkinsville. Traffic was also clear on US 41A.

    When I reached Hopkinsville, I saw that again the backup was starting just south of Exit 7. I thought it would clear as soon as Hopkinsville emptied out, so I turned onto the Pennyrile Parkway heading north.

  2. Event #2 - The Pennyrile Parkway Northbound was Slowed to a Crawl

    We followed the Pennyrile Parkway for 26 miles at a snail's pace. Most of the time the car was in first gear (using this indicator). I had assumed that the backup was caused by the construction at Morton's Gap KY.

    I later found out I was wrong. I-69 was backed up all the way to the Ohio River Bridges in Henderson KY. It remained backed up until near midnight.

    Change of Plan

    We turned off onto US 62 east at the Greenville exit at about 6 PM (EST). We decided to find lodging wherever we found it off the main roads.

  3. Event #3 - Small Traffic Jam West of Greenville KY

    There was a traffic jam on US 62 for about 3 miles. But the traffic turned off at KY 175. I later found out it was trying to get onto the Western Kentucky Parkway just north of US 62. I also later found out that the Western Kentucky Parkway was also backed up all the way to I-65 until nearly midnight.

    There was a second traffic jam on US 62 just before we entered Greenville for about 1 mile. But the traffic turned off at KY 189.

    We entered Greenville, but found no motels. It was too small. We turned north where US 62 turns.

    We went under an underpass below (as I found out later) KY 189 (Everly Brothers Blvd). We saw eastbound traffic backed up on the bridge.

  4. Event #4 - Traffic Jam in Powderly KY and Central City KY

    US 62 started backing up in Powderly KY. It culminated at a stop sign where US 62 turns left onto north KY 189. It was intermittently backed up into Central City. We found no motels in Powderly.

    We went under an underpass below the Western Kentucky Parkway. We saw eastbound traffic backed up on the overpass.

    Traffic was backed up on US 62 through Central City.

  5. Event #5 - Small Towns with no Lodging.

    I turned left onto north US 431 because I knew it headed for Indiana.

    We found no motels in Central City. I found out later they were all at the US 431 exit from the Western Kentucky Parkway (south of the intersection where I turned north). But since the parkway was backed up, they were probably already full.

    We had no further trouble with traffic jams until we reached Owensboro KY.

    We went through the Kentucky towns of South Carrollton, Island, Livermore, Nuckols, and Utica without finding any motels.

  6. Event #6 - Looping around Owensboro Looking for Lodging.

    There was a small traffic jam just south of the US 60 Owensboro Bypass interchange. We later found out it was due to a dog show letting out, not the eclipse traffic.

    We found three motels. The first had a broken credit card reader and required cash I didn't have. The second had no accessible rooms left for my wife. The third has no vacancies, but steered me to two others. The clerk said there was heavy demand because of the eclipse and the dog show.

    We stopped at a Days Inn (one of the two suggested) just north of the interchange of US 60 and US 231. It was now 10 PM (EST). We had been on the road 7 hours after the eclipse. My wife had been sitting in the car for 14 hours straight.

    We spent the night there. It was the first motel or hotel I had ever been in where the air temperature control unit actually held a steady temperature.

    The next morning, we bought gasoline, went north on US 231, crossed the Ohio River bridge, and turned west onto IN 66.


We did not encounter any traffic backups on 08/22/2017.

  1. Event #1 The Drownpour just east of Evansville.

    We followed IN 66 from Rockport IN to Evansville IN. Just before we reached Evansville, a terrific storm that I can only call a drownpour happened. I could not even see the edges of the road or the lane lines. I turned off into a parking lot of a closed fast food place and we waited it out for about 15 minutes.

    We then went west on IN 66 (Lloyd Expressway) into Evansville, North on US 41 to Vincennes IN, and west on US 50 into Illinois.

  2. Event #2 The Thunderstorm just east of Sumner IL.

    As we approached Sumner IL, it started raining fairly hard as a thunderstorm was in the area.

    Change of Plan

    We decided to go eat at Olney IL before visiting the cemeteries because it looked clear to the west. Visiting graves in the rain is not fun and hinders photography. So we ate first in Olney.

    We visited the cemetery in Olney, got gas in Sumner, and then visited the cemetery there - all without rain. Then we visited my parents' home town to drive past the houses they and my grandparents lived in before they were married.

    The Uneventful Trip Home

    We went east on US 50 to Washington IN, and then home on I-69 northbound.


I spent this much money on these items:

Item Amount
  - Easel, White Poster Boards, and Clips $46.41
  - Trip Snacks, Puffs, Bottled Water, and Newspaper $36.54
  - Ice for Ice Chest, Newspaper $2.42
  - Gasoline Hopkinsville KY $24.04
  - Gasoline Owensboro KY $19.24
  - Gasoline Sumner IL $16.82
  - Eclipse Viewing Site Parking $20.00
  - Room Owensboro $102.01
  - Meals Bloomington $9.61
  - Meals Owensboro $5.80
  - Meals Owensboro $3.21
  - Meals Olney $13.72

  - TOTAL $299.82

I drove this many miles:

Gear = dominant gear the transmission was in
MPG = gas mileage miles per gallon
Gal = gallons of gasoline used
Fill = filled the gas tank
Time Taken does not include times when I was out of the car
Subtotal and total speeds are average speeds.

OriginDestination MilesSpeed Road Time   Gear     MPG     Gal   Time (EDT)
Trip Begin          Fill09:00 AM 21st
Bloomington IN   - Evansville IN 10470 1:29:09 430.00 3.47 
Evansville IN   - Evansville IN 14 0:15:00 14.00 0.25 
Evansville IN   - Evansville IN 455 0:04:22 430.00 0.13 
Evansville IN   - Henderson KY 149 1:33:20 14.00 3.50 
Henderson KY   - Morton's Gap KY 3570 0:30:00 430.00 1.17 
Morton's Gap KY   - Morton's Gap KY 310 0:18:00 16.00 0.50 
Morton's Gap KY   - Hopkinsville KY 3470 0:29:09 430.00 1.13 
Subtotal  19541.94 4:38:59  19.21 10.1501:39 PM 21st
OriginDestination MilesSpeed Road Time   Gear     MPG     Gal   Time (EDT)
Trip Resume          Fill03:53 PM 21st
Hopkinsville KY   - Hopkinsville KY 2565 0:23:05 430.00 0.83 
Hopkinsville KY   - Nortonville KY 2615 1:44:00 17.24 3.5906:00 PM end
Nortonville KY   - Graham KY 855 0:08:44 430.00 0.27 
Graham KY   - Graham KY 38 0:22:30 16.00 0.50 
Graham KY   - Greenville KY 355 0:03:16 430.00 0.10 
Greenville KY   - Greenville KY 18 0:07:30 16.00 0.17 
Greenville KY   - Powderly KY 355 0:03:16 430.00 0.10 
Powderly KY   - Central City KY 68 0:45:00 16.00 1.00 
Central City KY   - Owensboro KY 3055 0:32:44 430.00 1.00 
Owensboro KY   - Owensboro KY 210 0:12:00 16.00 0.33 
Owensboro KY   - Owensboro KY 2540 0:37:30 430.00 0.83 
Subtotal  10723.22 4:36:30  13.56 8.7210:01 PM 21st
OriginDestination MilesSpeed Road Time   Gear     MPG     Gal   Time (EDT)
Trip Resume          Fill09:00 AM 22nd
Owensboro KY   - Evansville IN 4660 0:46:00 430.00 1.53 
Evansville IN   - Olney IL 9160 1:31:00 430.00 3.032 hr pause end
Olney IL   - Sumner IL 1560 0:15:00 430.00 0.50 
Subtotal  15260.00 2:32:00  30.00 5.0701:32 PM 22nd
OriginDestination MilesSpeed Road Time   Gear     MPG     Gal   Time (EDT)
Trip Resume          Fill03:00 PM 22nd
Sumner IL   - Bloomington IN 10565 1:36:55 430.00 3.501 hr pause mid
Subtotal  10565.00 1:36:55  30.00 3.5005:36 PM 22nd
Trip End  MilesSpeed Road Time     MPG     Gal    
TOTAL  58442.35 13:47:29  21.28 27.44 

Part Seven: NEXT TIME (2024)

Next time (in 2024), we won't have to travel. The total eclipse will pass right over our property with the eclipse centerline less than a mile away.

I expect the same kind of traffic problems we had in 2017 for the same reason. But we won't be in it unless it is cloudy here.

October 14, 2023 Annular eclipse over OR, CA, NV, UT, AZ, CO, NM, TX

April 8, 2024 Total eclipse over MEX, TX, OK, AR, MO, KY, IL, IN, OH, PA, NY, VT, NH, ME, ON, PQ, NB, PE, NS, NF



under construction This part is still under construction. Material is still being added:

  1. Traffic Problems

    12 million people already live in the totality zone. 200 million people live with a day's drive.

    The totality zone includes the states OR, ID, MT*, WY, NE, IA*, KS, MO, IL, KY, TN, GA, NC, and SC.
    * - Just barely enters the state. Totality zone is not accessible by road. MT has a mountain peak. IA has a river island.

    Traffic headed to the entire totality zone was predicted by statistician Michael Zeiler to be somewhere between 1.85 million and 7.4 million cars.

    It seems that, until recently, nobody had yet attempted to estimate the actual total number of people (or cars) nationwide that went into the totality zone in the 14 states for the purpose of viewing the eclipse.

    The University of Michigan and NASA joint study estimated US travel to the eclipse
    Location PeopleCars Citation
      - US Total 20 M10 M Surveys before and after the eclipse

    University of Michigan-NASA joint study with AASHTO† traffic volume increase
    Location PeopleCars Citation
      - US Total
    20 M
    10 M
    AASHTO had 3,900,000,000 extra vehicle miles in the US in August
    Dividing by 10 million cars gives an average of 390 miles per vehicle.
    † - American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials

    Several states made rough traffic estimates after the eclipse
    Location PeopleCars Citation
      - Oregon 1.0 M500 K estimated about 1 million people
      - Idaho 160 K70 K estimated 70 to 100 thousand cars
      - Montana 00 no roads - the location is on a rugged mountain peak
      - Colorado‡ 1.3 M600 K about 600 thousand went to totality zone from Colorado‡
      - Wyoming 1.0 M536 K counted 536 thousand more cars
      - Nebraska 708 K350 K Record tourist event in Nebraska
      - Iowa 00 no roads - a rowboat and waders are necessary
      - Kentucky 1.0 M500 K around 500 thousand cars attended
      - South Carolina 1.6 M800 K Estimated Record 1.6 million tourists
    ‡   State not in totality zone

    Some states made rough estimates about certain roads after the eclipse
    Location PeopleCars Citation
      - Kansas Turnpike KS 23 K11 K counted 11,330 extra vehicles
      - Pennyrile Parkway KY 20 K10 K estimated about 10,000 extra vehicles

    Several cities made rough traffic estimates after the eclipse
    Location PeopleCars Citation
      - Glendo WY 90 K40 K 90,000 people attended
      - Perryville MO 1.5 K800 Estimated about 1,500 people (off main roads)
      - Carbondale IL 50 K25 K estimated that around 50,000 people attended
      - Madisonville KY 10 K5.0 K estimated about 10,000 people
      - Kelly KY 20 K10 K 20,000 attended Little Green Men Festival and saw the eclipse.
      - Hopkinsville KY 100 K50 K estimated 100,000 people attended
      - Clarksville TN 20 K10 K estimated about 20,000 people
      - Nashville TN 90 K40 K estimated about 90,000 people


    Several states were using the slogan: "ARRIVE EARLY, STAY PUT, and LEAVE LATE."

    The Federal Highway Administration asked all states to stop all construction activities and open all closed lanes on 08/21/2017. Many did not. Some had already torn out the closed lanes when they got the request.

      - States that stopped construction and opened closed lanes:   ID, KS, NC, NE, UT, WY
      - States that stopped construction, but left lanes closed:   IL, IN
      - States that did not stop construction until traffic jammed:   KY
      - States that did not stop construction at all:   MT

    Most state officials expected the traffic going to the eclipse to cause more jamming, not the traffic going away from the eclipse afterward. The jams after the eclipse surprised many officials.

    There were traffic jams leaving the eclipse viewing areas because of these factors:
    • The last total eclipse in the US was in the northwest in 1979. The last coast-to-coast total eclipse was in 1918. Others since 1918 were total in just a few states. One annular eclipse covered a line from Texas to Maine in 1994. So it had been a while since most people were able to go to a total solar eclipse.
    • Because of varying weather conditions that could block the view of the eclipse, many people did not know to which part of the totality zone they would be going to until the day before the eclipse.
    • There was plenty of time to get into the totality zone before the eclipse on eclipse day, unless traffic was restricted by construction.
    • There was not enough lodging available in or near the totality zone to hold all of the eclipse watchers. It was all booked up well in advance.
    • There were only a few hours from the time of totality until the check-in times at most lodging locations outside the totality zone. Only those already checked into rooms for multiple nights spanning the eclipse date had no problems with late arrivals after the eclipse.
    • There was not enough highway capacity to get everyone with lodging reservations out of the totality zone and to their lodging locations before their required check-in times.

    Most of the drivers in the jam were heading home, heading to their lodging reservations, or heading to an area outside the totality zone to find lodging. Many of them had to reach their lodging locations before their check-in times, or lose their reservations.

    This was one thing the people in charge of traffic control could have predicted and mitigated. They needed to remove unnecessary obstructions that impede traffic and avoid scheduling lane closures within a week of the eclipse.

    Many officials in states not on the totality zone didn't expect much traffic in their state. That was a mistake.

    One other piece of advice would have been useful: Find lodging away from the totality zone the night before the eclipse and take the room for two days. Then late arrival at your room after the eclipse would not cause you to lose your room - you already are occupying it.

    under destruction The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet did not stop construction activities until after the post-eclipse traffic jams were already underway. They also did not adjust the traffic signals in Henderson to pass more through traffic.

    Then they reported that the backup on the northbound Pennyrile Parkway was only 10 miles (not the at least 23 miles I saw, and not the entire length between Hopkinsville and Henderson, as reported by TV news). Maybe that's why they keep the officials in a cabinet.

    The lanes closed on the Henderson KY Ohio River bridges and in Morton's Gap KY could not be reopened because the pavement had been removed. But removing the workers meant they could move the barrels back some.

    If they had acted in time, they could have reversed one of the lanes on the bridge, set the traffic signals to flashing, and used traffic officers to control those intersections. But they did not realize the severity of the problem until it was upon them. They also could have closed the side streets leading to the traffic signals.


    Different cities had different eclipse parking plans:

      - Carbondale IL   - The city asked that all eclipse visitors find places to park outside the city.

      - Farmers provided space and charged for parking.

      - The local college held special events for eclipse goers.

      - Hopkinsville KY   - The city let merchants have eclipse viewing areas in their parking lots. Signs directed people to these areas.

      - Merchants could charge for parking, and sell products to the eclipse viewers.

      - Parks were also utilized as eclipse viewing areas.

      - Extra gasoline was brought in for service stations.

      - Charleston SC   - The city set up several public events. Many were at parks and museums.
  2. From the University of Michigan and NASA Study

    The University of Michigan and NASA did a joint study about the eclipse:

    The University of Michigan and NASA's joint study provided these figures
    Populations (adults, not cars) How Attended Eclipse
    Characteristic Percent People Didn't Watch Electronically In Home Town To Totality Zone
      - US Total Adults   244,807,000 29,425,00061,575,000 134,025,00019,782,000
      - US Total Percent 100%   12.0%25.2% 54.7%8.1%
      - % living where totality < 70% 18.9% 46,366,000 14%32% 50%4%
      - % living where totality 70% - 80% 25.8% 63,160,000 16%30% 46%8%
      - % living where totality 80% - 90% 26.0% 63,650,000 12%25% 54%8%
      - % living where totality 90% - 100% 29.1% 71,239,000 7%16% 67%10%
      - % used solar eclipse glasses 100%   0%0% 73%83%
    Extended values calculated by the page author
    Populations (adults, not cars) How Attended Eclipse
    Characteristic Percent People Didn't Watch Electronically In Home Town To Totality Zone
      - % living where totality 90% - 99% 24.2% 59,239,000 7%16% 64%13%
      - % living in Totality Zone 4.9% 12,000,000 7%16% 76%1%
  3. Eye Damage

    Thousands of people never heard the warnings (or ignored the warnings) and damaged their eyes. Most of them had retinal burns.

    Counterfeit eclipse glasses were sold by unscrupulous people who did not care that people could destroy their vision using them. One test for genuine eclipse glasses is that you can't see anything but the sun when they are on.

    Some people in Virginia and California thought that sunscreen would protect their eyes. Instead, they ended up at hospitals with burning irritated eyes (but no retinal burns - they couldn't keep their eyes open long enough because of the irritation).

    Safe methods to observe solar eclipses:

  4. Business Effects

    A statistician estimated $700 million in productivity lost due to workers taking breaks to see the eclipse or taking days off for it.

    Hotel room occupancy was up an average of 224% in the totality zone. In Hopkinsville KY, it was up 1644%.

    Air travel to the totality zone doubled in the few days before and after the eclipse.

    Car rentals in and near the totality zone doubled in the few days before and after the eclipse.

  5. Power Consumption and Solar Power

    Power consumption dipped during the eclipse because people were outside observing instead of using air conditioners and appliances. Also, the temperature drops meant less air conditioning was needed.

    Solar power production nationwide dropped by several gigawatts during the eclipse.

  6. Online Effects

    A total of 40 million people watched the totality portion of the eclipse on TV or the web.

    4.4 million users watched the totality portion of the eclipse on the NASA website.

    NASA had 90 million hits on its website on 08/21/2027 - 7 times the previous record.

  7. Government Concerns

    The totality zone included 5 state capitals: Salem OR, Lincoln NE, Jefferson City MO, Nashville TN, and Columbia SC.

    School systems did different things:

      - Some closed school on eclipse day:   "So pupils would be under parental supervision."
      - Some stayed open on eclipse day:   "So pupils would be under teacher supervision."
      - Some stayed open on eclipse day:   "To keep pupils inside so none could suffer eye damage."
      - One system ruled:   "Traveling to the totality zone is not a valid education experience"

      "We will not excuse absenses for this purpose."

    Some motel chains wrongfully raised rental prices on already booked lodging or cancelled existing reservations to rent the rooms again at higher prices.

    Counterfeit eclipse glasses were sold (see above).

  8. Other Effects

    Many cameras rented to eclipse goers were returned damaged by concentrated sunlight.

    Locals in Hopkinsville KY bought out the stores, afraid that tourists would buy all of the supplies. Stores ran out of toilet paper, Crisco, sour cream, and sweet tea, among other items.